It Makes Sense Blog

The state of Florida has repealed its 30-year old growth management law (also called “smart growth,” UN Agenda 21 , “compact development” and “livability”). Under the law, local jurisdictions were required to adopt comprehensive land use plans stipulating where development could and could not occur. These plans were subject to approval by the state Department of Community Affairs, an agency now abolished by the legislation. The state approval process had been similar to that of Oregon. Governor Rick Scott had urged repeal as a part of his program to create 700,000 new jobs in seven years in Florida. Economic research in the Netherlands, theUnited Kingdom and the United States has associated slower economic growth with growth management programs.
Local governments will still be permitted to implement growth management programs, but largely without state mandates. Some local jurisdictions will continue their growth management programs, while others will welcome development.
The Need for A Competitive Land Supply: Growth management has been cited extensively in economic research because of its association with higher housing costs. The basic problem is that, by delineating and limiting the land that can the used for development, planners create guides to investment, which shows developers where they must buy and tells the now more scarce sellers that the buyers have little choice but to negotiate with them. This can violate the “principle of competitive land supply,” cited by Brookings Institution economist Anthony Downs. Downs said:
If a locality limits to certain sites the land that can be developed within a given period, it confers a preferred market position on those sites. … If the limitation is stringent enough, it may also confirm a monopolistic powers on the owners of those sites, permitting them to raising land prices substantially.
This necessity of retaining a competitive land supply is conceded by proponents of growth management. The Brookings Institution published research by leading advocates of growth management, Arthur C Nelson, Rolf Pendall, Casey J. Dawkins and Gerrit J. Knapp that makes the connection, despite often incorrect citations by advocates to the contrary. In particular they cite higher house prices in California as having resulted from growth management restrictions that were too strong.
…even well-intentioned growth management programs … can accommodate too little growth and result in higher housing prices. This is arguably what happened in parts of California where growth boundaries were drawn so tightly without accommodating other housing needs
Nelson, et al. also concluded that “… the housing price effects of growth management policies depend heavily on how they are designed and implemented. If the policies tend to restrict land supplies, then housing price increases are expected” (emphasis in original).
In other words, if growth management policies do not maintain a competitive land supply, house prices are likely to rise in response. This is basic economics. Restricting the supply of any good or service in demand is likely to lead to higher prices, all things being equal.
The loss of a competitive land supply was seen during the real estate bubble in the unprecedented escalation of house prices in California (which was already high), Oregon, Washington, Phoenix, Las Vegas, parts of the Northeast and Florida. In these markets, the demand from more liberal lending standards was much greater than the land available for development under growth management plans and government land auctions. By contrast, house prices generally stayed within historic norms in metropolitan areas where land supplies were not constrained by growth management programs, such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Austin, Indianapolis, Kansas City and elsewhere.
Housing Price Escalation in Florida: In 2000, the four Florida metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population had Median Multiples (median house price divided by median household income) near or below the historic norm of 3.0. By late in the next decade, all four metropolitan areas reached unprecedented levels of unaffordability. In Miami, the Median Multiple reached 7.2. In Orlando, the Median Multiple peaked at 5.2, 70 percent above the historic norm. In Tampa-St. Petersburg, the Median Multiple peaked at 4.8, 60 percent above the historic norm. The peak in Jacksonville was a more modest 3.6, though this was still an 80 percent increase.

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